The UK gambling white paper suggests multiple fresh discussions as the initial step towards implementing changes.
The UK gambling sector has been on tenterhooks for two years, anticipating the government’s actions after its appraisal of the 2005 Gambling Act. The long-awaited gambling white paper, released yesterday, presents ideas to modernize the UK’s gambling regulations, incorporating some expected changes.
But the paper is not conclusive and lacks complete transparency, as it proposes various new discussions rather than definite suggestions, signifying that more waiting is necessary. Stuart Andrew, the new parliamentary under-secretary for sport, gambling, and civil society, has announced that these discussions will be finalized before the 2024 general election.
Key measures of the gambling white paper
One of the most disputed aspects of the gambling white paper, affordability checks, was also an anticipated one. The government plans to implement fresh affordability checks dependent on a player’s losses. Operators will be obligated to carry out thorough examinations of players who lose £1,000 in a day or £2,000 in 90 days. Nonetheless, the criteria for “passive checks” have been lowered significantly, requiring mandatory checks for players who lose more than £125 net in a month or £500 in a year.
One of the most unexpected developments is the absence of a conclusive verdict on stake limits for online slots. Instead, the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport will carry out additional discussions on this topic, aiming to introduce a limit ranging between £2 and £15 per spin, with the possibility of the threshold being lower for new accounts or younger players than for other accounts. Currently, some operators already enforce a £10 limit.
A much-debated proposal is the implementation of a mandatory levy on gambling operators to finance research, education, and treatment. The funds collected will be directed towards the Gambling Commission, which will determine which initiatives to support. Nevertheless, the details and extent of this measure are yet to be established after further discussions, scheduled to commence during the summer.
There is also no definite decision on game design. The Gambling Commission will assess the regulations for online game designs, specifically the “intensifying features” that can increase the level of risk.
The UK regulator, the Gambling Commission, will undergo a review of its fees next year to ensure it has adequate resources. In addition, there will be an examination of whether the Commission should oversee prize draws and competitions, and it will increase its focus on its requirements for white-label casino operators.
The DCMS is considering providing legal support for the present voluntary arrangement with payment providers to prevent unlicensed gambling websites. If approved, the Gambling Commission would be authorized to seek court orders to require payment providers to block these sites.
The government plans to establish an independent gambling ombudsman that will be responsible for managing player complaints. The ombudsman will collaborate with the Gambling Commission to aid the regulator’s enforcement efforts and protect vulnerable populations. Initially, the industry’s use of the ombudsman will be voluntary, but if the industry does not embrace it, the DCMS may enact legislation to require participation.
The land-based gambling rules include a ban on under 18s using category D gaming machines, and the Gambling Commission may consider changing its age verification slogan from Think 21 to Think 25. Additionally, there will be a consultation to examine the impact of contactless payments on player protection.
The gambling white paper proposes to allow land-based casinos to offer sports betting and increase the number of slot machines they can host. Larger casinos will have a 5:1 ratio of slots to table games, while smaller casinos will be permitted to add additional machines on a pro-rata basis, based on their size and non-gambling floorspace.
Further consultations will take place regarding gambling advertising. The Gambling Commission will initiate a discussion on proposed measures, such as the requirement for opting-in for online bonuses and other offers related to online gambling. The messages regarding gambling-related harms will be reinforced, and stricter limitations will be imposed on VIP promotions.
There is no proposition for a license for gambling affiliates. Operators will be required to ensure that their partners comply with higher standards in advertising and marketing regulations.
Reaction of the industry to the gambling white paper
The publication of the gambling white paper has been largely welcomed by the industry, although some have criticized the proposed number of new consultations.
According to Michael Dugher, CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council, the paper’s release is long overdue and is seen as a balanced, proportionate and effective package of reforms. He welcomed the rejection of proposals for blanket, intrusive affordability checks and bans on advertising, sports sponsorship, and consumer promotions, which would harm the industry, jobs and customers.
Michael Dugher stated that they welcomed the publication of the gambling white paper, although they would need time to analyze the proposals in detail. He acknowledged that the BGC had worked closely with the government to produce a comprehensive set of balanced, proportionate, and effective reforms.
He further praised the decision to dismiss calls from anti-gambling activists for intrusive affordability checks, advertising bans, and restrictions on consumer promotions, which could have a detrimental impact on the sports industry, employment, and customer behavior.
Dugher acknowledged that the proposed measures would result in significant change but hoped that they would provide the much-needed regulatory stability for BGC members to prioritize customer satisfaction.
Flutter Entertainment expressed its welcome for the gambling white paper while acknowledging it will cost them between £50m to £100m from 2024.
Chief executive Peter Jackson praised the paper as a significant and positive moment for the UK gambling sector, raising standards and bringing the regulatory framework up to date with the digital age.
He also emphasized their proactive stance in safer gambling controls through the ‘Play Well’ strategy, such as mandatory deposit limits for customers under 25, reduced online slots staking limits, and substantial investments in their safer gambling operational capabilities.